Take him to dinner.
What? That’s crazy! NO!
Ask him. Tonight.
God, I can’t. That is too weird.
Corrie, trust me. Take him to dinner.
But I don’t want to. I’m not ready. Next time.
November, 2010. I sat there in the pew, wrestling with God. Why couldn’t I get this thought out of my head? The homeless beggar man I had started saying hi to outside of church, Dugang… I knew would be there again after the service.
I looked down at the origami cranes and twiddled them through my anxious fingers. I remembered the warmth that had filled me just an hour earlier when Dugang had proudly held up this gift to me with his gnarled and scabbed stubs, once his fingers. He was beaming.
And now I was grimacing, wincing in awkwardness. I don’t want to get involved, God. I know this would not just be one step. It would be the first of many. Ahh… it’s just too complicated. Too uncertain. I hate this feeling!
Corrie, I’m in this. Trust me.
But God, I’m hurting too much. I can’t give anything right now. My marriage just broke. I’m hurting so bad.
I know. I have a plan. Just take him to dinner.
Argh!!! Ok, God. Ok.
I built up my resolve and waited for the closing cadences of worship, then almost robotically marched out to the gates. He was there, with his mom pushing his wheelchair. I forced out the words, then found myself walking toward a Chinese restaurant down the street. Would they even have wheelchair access?
So we sat. I ordered a few dishes, and they just smiled back at me, insisting I not get anything too expensive. Ok, God. Here I am.
The conversation started. They were from the countryside, central China. Where? I asked, as my thoughts wandered to the one place I knew in central-ish China: Jingzhou – a small no-name city my husband and I had visited years ago to see friends who were teaching English out in the middle of nowhere.
They smiled and said I probably wouldn’t know the place. It was outside of Wuhan, a city named “Jingzhou”.
My heart stopped, and I almost dropped my hand sanitizer. “Jingzhou?”
They answered yes, and I told them of my connection to the city, that I had been there. They were amazed. Immediate common ground.
The food arrived, and I asked if I could pray. They said yes, and that they were Christians, too. I sat there further stunned, then bowed my head, thinking of what Chinese words I knew to pray. Before I voiced anything, though, I heard whispers, and peeked to notice they were already talking to God. Both of them. Whispering phrases with heads bowed, pouring out their hearts to Him. I sat there with no words except, “God, help” coming to mind as I faced an impossible situation right in front of me.
A 35 year-old man who has suffered from a rare skin condition since he was 3 years old. A condition that has literally eaten away his feet, lower legs, and hands. Rough skin that grows out of control even on his head and face, and must be scrubbed daily to keep his appearance from becoming more unsightly than it is already.
And here he sat, joy and life coming out of him as he carefully lifted food to his mouth with chopsticks, asked me questions about my life, and told me of the overwhelming sense of peace that had settled on him and his mom since they had become Christians 2 years before. “All of our fannao (worries/anxieties) used to weigh on us so heavily, but after praying, He lifted them off of us.”
I felt activated, engrossed. This was not hard. This was right. This was from you, God. This was a set up. You made it easy for me. You knew I would be ok.
They shared with me that they were struggling to afford the medicine they had come to Shanghai to get prescribed, with Dugang taking just half a pill a day instead of the full pill. So his joints were getting stiffer, and skin layers tougher. A tear escaped from my eye, and I said I thought maybe some people in my small group could help them. It was about $10 a day that they needed for the specialized medicine.
As his mom wheeled him out of the restaurant that winter day, I felt relieved, filled, and moved. God, you love these people. They are so “normal”! My common ground with them extending even beyond my familiarity with their hometown, and the shared faith.
I was desperate too. I was desperate for God to help me. For someone to help. For someone to notice me. I was in pain too. I was dying inside, being ripped apart moment to moment as I was attacked by fear, hurt, anger, rejection and loneliness.
But God. You’re here. You see me. You see them. You’re doing something. Somehow, it’s all connected. Them. Me. My husband. I can’t see the full picture yet, but I would have never reached out to them if I hadn’t been in my crisis.
I’ve never been this desperate, God. I’ve never needed you so much. I’ve never been this quiet to listen. But I’m hearing now, I’m listening, I’m following.
Thank you for this season. Heal Dugang’s broken body, and heal my broken heart.
P.S. Dugang now?
Well, over the last 2 years, we’ve continued to support him get medical treatment/medication, helped him pursue a temporary job (which lasted 2 days, but was a good first work experience), and prayerfully bought him an electric scooter to give him independence and mobility.
He still struggles to know how to “move forward” and out of a begging lifestyle, given his physical limitations (no lower legs, shriveled hands). And his mom can’t take care of him so intensively for many more years.
When we get overwhelmed and frustrated with the situation, God reminds us that Dugang is not a “project”. He is a person who we are to love. Dugang’s life vision is to somehow earn money to start a church in his hometown so that others can discover the peace of God. He constantly prays for me, and for my husband, and for every person in our group.
Dugang LOVES people, and we are learning how to just be friends with him, listening to God about next steps – His plans for this unique man, and His plans for us. Your prayer over this situation is VERY welcome, as you feel led.
Dinner at my house with Dugang and some people from small group.